Room for Creativity
by Brenda Ellis
"Creativity is inventing, experimenting, growing, taking risks, breaking rules, making mistakes, and having fun."
- Mary Lou Cook
In the art room today I hung up a large reproduction by Henri Matisse featuring bright orange goldfish in a glass cylinder surrounded by plants and patterned wall paper. On the table I placed a basket filled with shells and a bowl of live fish. The children had no trouble beginning their picture today. Art rooms can inspire! Whether you have a dedicated art room, like mine, or the kids gather around the kitchen table, you can create a space where your children will have many meaningful art experiences. In a home environment, the goal is to make a space where your child's fleeting ideas can take form, before they are interrupted. They should be able to find the materials they need in order to "invent, experiment, grow, take risks, make mistakes and have fun", as Mary Lou Cook so wonderfully describes the creative process.
First consider the space available. You'll want to make sure the floor and table surfaces are made of materials that can get messy and be cleaned easily. Control the level of messy materials to the level of your comfort. If you have a place where the children can use paints, then provide paints. If mess is an issue provide dry types of materials like pencils, crayons, paper, colored paper, scissors, tape, and glue. If the kitchen floor and table are the only available places in your home, then set aside one cupboard for art materials that the children can go to when they feel creative. Of course children love their own space, even if it is very small, so setting aside a special art table or desk for making art and keeping the supplies in a drawer nearby, can be quite inspiring for the young artist. Drawing boards are a fun option and they are portable so the child can draw on the floor in any room or can go outdoors. If you have a child's easel, you'll want to put it in their art space, but easels are less adaptable than a simple Masonite drawing board. If you are comfortable with the children making messes in the space you have provided for them, then they will be comfortable enough to create new things and try new things in their artwork. I know people who have created an art space in a portion of the garage, a portion of the basement, a portion of the kitchen, or in the child's room. When our children were young, and our home was small, we found the kitchen table a great spot for messy projects, which were simply cleaned up before a meal. Drawing with pencils and markers happened all over the house as the kids grabbed their materials, a drawing board, and a piece of the floor.
Second, consider providing the things that inspire a creative effort. This could include craft books or picture books with photographs of animals, people, or places. You could provide interesting objects to see: such as shells, driftwood, or collections of any type. Figurines can be set about. These are not used in a project, but are meant to be looked at and used as inspiration for drawings or crafts. You can pick up interesting objects at hobby stores or yard sales.
Finally, consider the materials which the art will be made out of. These will be materials that are always available to your children. (Special materials used for the Artistic Pursuits books could be kept in a different area and brought out only for the school project.) I have provided a list of materials from the (must have, least messy) to the (optional, most messy). I hope this helps you choose materials that suit your art space best and your comfort level.
MUST HAVE / LEAST MESSY LIST
Colored construction paper
pencil sharpener that young children can use
CONSIDER ADDING LIST
Play Doh or Modeling Clay
OPTIONAL / MOST MESSY LIST
watercolor paints in trays
tempera paints in bottles
Elmer's Glue All
WAIT UNTIL THEY'RE OLDER LIST
Any type of marker other than those designed specifically for children